The woman in question was slouched in a train seat, reading a fantasy novel. Being a muggle and without any wizard relatives, Marie had no direct experience with magic, but with the sheer volume of material she had read, she fancied herself quite the expert. Or at the very least, open to the possibility.
She was sharing the compartment with two friends. The three of them had decided to take a semester off and see Europe, mostly because her friend Stephanie wanted to. Stephanie had been to England many times before, and Marie went with her because she had never been to Europe and Stephanie did not wish to go alone. Why this was remained somewhat of a mystery to Marie, but she suspected it had something to do with the opportunity to show off her expertise in all things England to someone not in her family (who had been there with her during her other journeys and knew everything she knew).
Their friend Erin came along because she has a tendency to liven up trips (getting thrown out of the White House by the Secret Service for sneaking off to find a bathroom during a tour being one example of many) and because Erin didn't have to pay for any of it.
Erin fidgeted in her seat on the train until she simply couldn't stand being ignored any longer. She loomed over Marie and said, "Put the book down and back away slowly."
"Hold on, three more pages," Marie muttered, not bothering to look up.
"You're getting footprints on the window," Stephanie said indignantly to Marie, standing up and getting her bag from the train rack.
"What, are we there?" Marie asked as Stephanie stood up, pulling her feet down and peeking out the window. King's Cross Station was sliding silently into view.
"Why did you think we were stopping?" Erin said with a giggle.
"I don't know. Track change, or something?" Marie said, dropping the book into her backpack and snapping the flap shut.
"You're strange, woman," Erin said, getting to her feet. There was a faint, dusty outline of Marie's sneakers on the window.
"I hope nobody notices that," Stephanie said, staring accusingly at the prints.
"It's night. Besides, they've got cleaners and stuff," Marie said, swinging her back pack over one shoulder. Stephanie grunted, not so much because she agreed as because she didn't have the time to argue at the moment. "We're not spending the whole time in London, are we?" Marie asked to change the subject, standing with her feet wide apart so she would not fall over as the train jerked to a stop.
"Um, no," Stephanie said, opening her bag and rummaging frantically through her belongings. She pulled out her precious itinerary, scribbled on neatly folded notebook paper. "We… are… spending the night here, and going up to Scotland tomorrow. I couldn't get us any connecting tickets today," she said, apologetically.
"That's fine," Marie said, amused that Stephanie would worry about something as insignificant as that.
None of the girls would have slept on the train, anyway. Marie would have been awake all night either reading or humming mindlessly to herself, Stephanie would have paced around the compartment double-checking all essential items every five minutes, and Erin would have either spent all night coughing or she would fallen asleep, rolled off the bench, and kept her companions awake with her snoring.
The girls retrieved their suitcases and took a cab to the hotel. Marie took the room in with a glance as she tossed her backpack on a chair. One bathroom, two beds. I can sleep on the floor, she thought; it won't hurt to play nice person for one night. She took a pillow off one of the beds and pulled her dragon blanket out of her suitcase (where she had stuffed at the station so she wouldn't have to carry it). She kicked off her shoes and curled up on the floor next to the heater, giving her pillow a couple of good punches before resting her head on it.
"Ooh. Sleep. Pretty sleep," Erin said, collapsing onto one bed.
Marie made an affirmative noise. Her blanket still smelled like the train, a mixture of worn seat and old coffee.
"You sure you'll be fine on the floor?" Stephanie asked her.
"Yep." She pulled the blanket over her head to help keep the heat in and the light out.
It was still dark when Marie awakened. Stephanie's sleep radio was muttering softly while she chomped her teeth, and Erin was lying on her stomach with her ear plugs in, producing a noise similar to what Marie imagined a dragon coughing up a hairball would sound like.
Marie stood up, wrapped her blanket around herself, and crept over to look out the window. There was a little bit of snow starting to fall, and she smiled. When she was little, she used to sit on her bed in the middle of the night for hours, just looking out the window. There was never anything happening, of course, but everything always looked so different and magical at night. Especially snow. The light would catch it, and it would flicker like a diamond before it fell into the shadows. All the stores on the street were dark, except for one. A tavern, she guessed, squinting at the sign. "The Leaky Cauldron." Hmm, she thought, leaning forward to study the building more closely.
The door to the place burst open, and a man stumbled out. Marie jumped back and closed the curtain to a crack on instinct. The man was carrying a broom, not the supermarket kind but a much older style, similar to one Marie had seen at a historical site where the employees showed visitors how to shoe horses and make candles out of pig fat. She stared hard at him. He wasn't as old as she had thought at first; the two were about the same age. His face, while young, had maturity to it. He stopped, tossed the broom flat out on the sidewalk and held his hand over it. She didn't know what he was up to, so she moved a little closer to the window for a better view.
Another young man with the reddest hair she had ever seen in her life came running out after him, pulling on a, cloak? They were definitely arguing about something. The first one pushed him away, and held his hand over the broom. He snapped something at it, and it shot up into his hand. Marie jumped back, startled. Intrigued, she opened the curtains a little wider and got right up next to the glass. The young man jumped up onto the broom and tucked his feet on top of the bristles. It stayed up. "What the…" she whispered softly under her breath. Her mind was spinning. A warlock? Wizard? Sorcerer? Was there a difference?
"You're a bloody idiot!" the red-haired one yelled at him, trying to untangle something from his cloak.
Broom Rider was quicker. He had his wand (?) in his hand and pointed at Red's face before he could finish wiggling his the rest of the way out. Red froze. Broom Rider put his wand back and said something that Red evidently didn't like, but was willing to live with, because Red gave him a pat on the shoulder before he went back inside.
Broom Rider rearranged himself on the broomstick and looked up. Right at Marie. She thought about diving away from the window right about then, but she knew he had spotted her. It's a little hard to ignore someone wrapped in a turquoise dragon blanket with her forehead and fingers pressed up against the window like a kid in front of a candy shop. She just hoped that her seeing him wasn't important enough to get her turned into a toad. He didn't really seem mad. He seemed more confused than anything. He lifted up his hand experimentally. She jumped back. He furrowed his brow for a second, and then it dawned on him that she thought he was planning on spelling her. He shook his head with a grin and waved hi. Hi? That's it? Now it was her turn to be confused. He gave the broom a kick-start and took off into the night.
She stood in front of the window, turning the encounter over in her mind, and finally decided that his leaving her alone made sense. He didn't do anything but fly on a broom, and she didn't think that was a punishable offense under English law. Besides, if she spoke to anyone normal about it they would think she had dreamed it, and anyone magical wouldn't think what she saw was all that strange. And she didn't panic, which made it even less of a problem. Seeing a broom fly had been more a confirmation of something she had hoped was possible ever since she was a little girl rather than a revelation of something new and terrifying. She still couldn't quite understand how the broom had done it, though. Well, magic, but besides that.
She stared back down at "The Leaky Caldron." No sign of Red or any more broom wielding people. There was something strange, though. Everything behind the building had a fuzzy look, and it had nothing to do with the snow. She looked harder. What she saw was a street behind the Caldron that hadn't been there before, its rooftops brushing against the night sky. But she could still see the old view at the same time, like a double exposure from a camera. The only difference was that the new and old views were both solid, as though they both somehow existed in the same time and place. Then it…shifted, and the new street pulled into the old street and vanished. She was impressed, and rightly so. She waited a little to see if it would do it again. However, the street stubbornly refused to do anything further out of the ordinary, so she crept back to her pillow and curled up on the floor, disappointed.
She knew Stephanie would march around and make sure they got up bright and early the next morning before herding them out to the station, and there would go her opportunity to go down to The Leaky Caldron and find out exactly what she had seen. Now that she knew what was possible, she wanted to learn more, about the disappearing street, about magic, about everything, including Broom Rider. Especially Broom Rider. She gave a small smile, then snorted to herself as she realized that there was no reason on earth why anyone there would talk to her about anything. She thumped the pillow a couple of times and pulled the blanket over her head.
"Stupid," she muttered to herself.
A few minutes after Marie closed her eyes, the servant apperated back home and heaved a sigh. There had been no sign of the tool anywhere on Diagon Alley. Still, the trip had not been entirely unsucessful. The man the servant had kidnapped off his broomstick fell to the floor with a thud. He moaned, and the servant gave him a sharp kick in the ribs. He had been more trouble than the servant had expected, but now that he was here the preperations could begin to turn him into the vessel for the reawakening.
The servant was so preoccupied with planning that it took several moments to realize that the link had partly broken free of the imperius curse and escaped. The servant said a few particularily vile phrases out loud, then took a few calming breaths. The link had all but served his purpose, so the loss was of little consequence. The main priority right now was laying hands on the tool. Once she was subdued, the E'Chode would be within reach.